Astronomical Nightmares

This afternoon I bumped into Ross McLure in the corridor. I congratulated him on his heroic achievement (with Jim Dunlop and Michele Cirasuolo and other chums) getting out a paper based on the new WFCAM3 observations of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field in just a few days, including claims of several galaxies past redshift seven. Ross said it was indeed a tad exhausting, and was the most stressful thing he’d done since submitting his thesis.

This sent me into anecdote mode. Many moons ago for my thesis in Leicester, I had spent days on end staring at hundreds of “lines of position” plots for Ariel V X-ray sources. One night I dreamt I was an error box, and couldn’t find the X-ray source I was supposed to enclose. I woke up sweating.

Some while ago I told Jim Dunlop this story, and he immediately topped it with his own thesis-submission story. One has to bear in mind that Jim’s supervisor was John Peacock, who has a brain the size of six planets. This is a wondrous thing, but in those latter days, could only add to the stress. In Jim’s dream, he was printing out a copy of his thesis, when suddenly it stopped printing on paper and starting printing on fish. Jim says that his immediate thought was “oh no ! what will John think ???”

Any more ?

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13 Responses to Astronomical Nightmares

  1. Chas says:

    Methinks you mean WFC3, unless they’ve launched UKIRT into space.

    (It is worth pointing out that Ross and chums also found dozens of z>6 galaxies with UKIRT recently, but of course that telescope isn’t in space so we must close it down as soon as possible…)

  2. telescoper says:

    I once had a dream that I was giving a seminar. Then I woke up and found that I was.

  3. andyxl says:

    I once threw up during a seminar. Not one of yours Peter. Actually one of my own. Felt like a nightmare but actually I was awake the whole time.

    • David says:

      I was once in a lecture from which the lecturer fell out.

      He’d just finished writing one of his favourite proofs on the board and stepped back to admire it and bask in the admiration of his students (ever the optimist, he). Unfortunately he stepped back off the dais, tripped and stumbled back through the fire exit – which promptly closed behind him.

      He got a standing ovation when he finally reappeared.

  4. Gary says:

    In the middle of my MSc programming project I dreamt I was trapped between a pair of curly brackets and iterating into infinity.

  5. [...] here. There’s also a cute discussion of the stress involved in such publications over at andxyl’s place. farkItButton(encodeURIComponent('Well, That Was Fast!'), [...]

  6. Zephir says:

    These guys know wery well, what to observe first by rejuvenated Hubble telescope…;-)

    In AWT Big Bang never happened and the observation of most distant parts of Universe is similar to observation of landscape under haze – under closer view we would observe new well developed stable galaxies. After all, remote observer would see very same picture from distant areas, while looking toward us. So we can say, there was many private Big Bangs for every observer, because AWT supports concept of multiple histories as well.

  7. Rob Ivison says:

    I was in a car heading to HP, just past the 17 mile marker, when i realised that the next mile marker would also say 17 and that the whole Universe had existed for over 10 billion years only to give me this moment of absolute horror and panic and then to loop forever between 17 and… 17. I’d just watched The Blair Witch Project, as if you couldn’t guess.

  8. Jim Dunlop says:

    To be clear, the thing was I ran out of paper, and Karl Glazebrook was fidgeting with the computer (as he often did) and deleting my thesis by mistake, so I had to keep printing. And all I had handy to feed into the printer was several fillets of haddock. The really stressful part was that I had to fast fry each fish to turn it from transluscent to white before passing it into the printer. At least there seemed to be a cooker handy. I don’t remember being worried about what John might think, more worried about lack of fish. Indeed nowadays I suspect there are not enough haddock left for such a fish printing feat.

  9. telescoper says:

    According to Freud, the imagery associated with fish in dreams is all to do with thoughts of conception and/or birth. So either your subconscious was regarding the creation and delivery of your thesis as a kind of birth or you secretly want to have Karl Glazebrook’s babies.

  10. Duncan says:

    I have had several nightmares about being back in the ROE photo-dungeons, to discover that I have been processing UKST film copies without washing off the fixer, or they have been in the wash for a week, or the clean room is in a wretched, filthy state. Happily, these dreams seem to be less frequent now, and are probably receding Fibonacci-like. Never seen any haddock, although Brian Hadley once received a letter in real life, addressed to R E Haddock…

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